I had a great response to this post the other day, discussing the leadership question. Thats is, are great leaders born rather than made? The analogy I used was of the sporting star. I think its fair to say, few of us would consider ourselves able to compete at the very top of the professional sporting ranks, no matter how much practice and training we decide to put in. Yet, it seems, we are sold training schemes and self-help books designed to help us become a ‘great’ or a real leader, and we wholeheartedly throw ourselves into it!
It seems we think climbing to the very top of the business tree so to speak, is well within our grasp. With only the acquisition of an MBA standing in our way to greatness.
Most of us felt, according to the discussion that took place, that on the one hand, everyone is capable of becoming a great leader. This point was confused though by a feeling that on the other hand, it did take a certain something to be activated before that could happen.
In other words the potential leader needs that certain something before they can become great at leading some one, a team or an organisation – therefore only a select amount of people are capable of doing it? I can buy that, I think it agrees with my own perspective. Whatever, along the way there were a number of other great points made too.
Not least the point made by Barbara Chidgey, a regular contributor on these pages. She says there are many unheralded leaders all over the place. Just because a leader isn’t in the public eye, it doesn’t mean that they aren’t brilliant at what they do. And the converse is also the case. Just because a leader is in the public eye, that doesn’t make them great either!
You’ll soon be able to read more about Barbara’s views on leadership as she agreed to do a guest post on this blog – and will be starting her very own blog soon too. She will be a must read I think.
Also extremely interesting was the way a lot of people re framed the question. Is this simply another example of people’s realities matching their perceptions? In a lot of cases, I don’t think the question was therefore answered, rather, it tended to be re posed in this form: What is a REAL leader anyway? What makes a leader great in the first place.
Now this is a very interesting question isn’t it?
In fact this whole debate has reminded me of a very popular post I wrote some months back about the difference between Marketing and Selling. I think there are as many opinions on that as there are Marketers and Sellers! And this topic seems to have the same inflammatory effect.
Well, here is my opinion, for what its worth…
There has clearly been a huge amount of thinking about leadership. There is A LOT of information on this topic as you might well imagine. For instance according to Wikipedia, and its description of leadership ‘trait’ theory (the things great leaders must have as part of their make up) we should consider a leaders: Intelligence, adjustment, extraversion, conscientiousness, openness to experience and general self – efficacy.
The same article also lists some leadership styles: Autocratic or authoritarian style, the participation or democratic style, the Laissez-faire or free rein style, the narcissistic style or even toxic leadership (that one sounds a bundle of laughs!)
This is the tiniest example of whats out there so its very easy to get confused over what we consider to be ‘good’ or a real leader. This article, on the website www.entrepreur.com, chosen at random after a quick google search on the subject, insists great leaders have vision, passion, are great decision makers, and are great team builders, they’ll also have character. And so it goes, with opinion and debate and books and articles where ever you may cast your eye. All designed to tantalise us with our own potential maybe?
In fact it seems that we confuse being able to observe something with the ability to learn it. Or teach it for that matter. A bit like the expert 60 year old football coach observing what his English Premier League team is doing well, and not so well. Teaching them how to do things better even. Then pulling on his boots when his star striker is injured.
For me, there is one simple quality that defines great leadership, real leadership if you will. And that’s getting results. As Guy Kawasaki once said about Steve Jobs, ‘Real CEOs ship!’ He means real leaders get their products to market, real leaders win.
Great leaders have impact. Thanks again to Barbara for that term. Great leaders get the job done. Whether that’s a formal P+L responsibility to shareholders, or a Parent bringing up a child. The head of a charity pulling all its disparate volunteers together into a cohesive and productive team, or a teacher opening the eyes of a classroom to great literature. All great leaders have impact! They create results.
They pick (or are given) a target, and they take the resources available to them, those obvious and hidden, and they make things happen.
How many leaders of today have your respect? Is it because, ultimately, they get the job done? And if they don’t have your respect, is it because they don’t get the job done?
For me its simple. Real leaders get results, anyone else is playing at it.
Big and small, famous or invisible, great leaders win. And I think you either have that ability or you don’t. You’re born with it or you’re not. It’s as simple as that. And no amount of training, or practice can put in what God left out.
But I’ve been wrong before! Once again, and as always, please let me know what you think in the comments below, or on the Facebook page. You can tweet me @radiojaja, or even email me on firstname.lastname@example.org I’d love to hear from you!